A COMEDY OF EXCELLENCE
Cue the epic battle underscoring, full orchestra and chorus. A lanky gaoler lopes onstage, indicates a prisoner’s head, clumsily hoists an ax from the prop box, and – after a few awkward missteps – finally manages to split a watermelon rolling about on the ground. Triumph!
Shakespeare’s stage directions for this opening moment of The Comedy of Errors are sparse and straightforward: “Enter Duke Solinus, Aegeon, Gaoler, Officers, and other Attendants.” It is in the wildly farcical physicalization of the Bard’s words that Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble’s must-see production springs to life. This madcap comedy of mistaken identities promises fun for the whole family.
The production kicks off to a simple start, laying the foundations of the plot with only a few dropped trousers. Director Drew Shirley relies on the Bard’s witty wordplay to introduce the confusion between long-lost twin brothers Antipholus of Ephesus (Roger Stewart) and Antipholus of Syracuse (Mark Schroeder) – and their likewise related servants Dromio of Ephesus (Jesse Sharp) and Dromio of Syracuse (Cy Brown). But once the plot has been set in motion, this riotous production escalates in innovation and hilarity with each scene.
Shirley wholeheartedly embraces the Bard as entertainment for the masses. He updates The Comedy of Errors into contemporary popular culture with waterguns and slow-mo swordfights, cowboys and karate kids, and several exceptional musical sequences underscored by 80s and 90s pop.
This satire features an astoundingly talented company. The Dromios’ clowning showcases a mastery of the Bard’s linguistic puns, heightened by a spectacular array of physical comedy. On opening night, Antipholus of Syracuse (Schroeder) responded to lighting flukes throughout the show with hilarious, self-consciously theatrical winks to the audience. The ensemble is also packed with remarkable character actors. Nich Kauffman’s wide-eyed Angelo couples wild choreographic panache with an endearingly awkward laugh. Greyson Lewis steals the show by hysterically flipping among discordant identities: from lanky gaoler to dusky-voiced, balloon-boobed courtesan. Adriana Lambarri’s vivid costume designs are most successful in capturing these topsy-turvy characters.
The company exudes a sense of wondrous playfulness that enraptures the audience from start to finish. Shirley’s imaginative staging winds through the audience, pops in and out of unexpected windows and doors, and races around the Powerhouse to the infectious tunes of Michael Jackson. Set on the enchantingly-lit outdoor deck, this Comedy of Errors is a heartfelt tribute to the Powerhouse Theatre and community – a fitting final show for Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble’s stint in this space. Audiences will undoubtedly follow this dynamic, risk-taking ensemble to their next theatrical home, eager to see what comes next.
stellis @ stageandcinema.com
photos by Seth Miller
The Comedy of Errors
scheduled to end on September 24
for tickets, visit http://www.powerhousetheatre.com